July 2nd, 2012

Upping the Ante: Making Liberty Go Mainstream in Utah

Political apathy is an area of concern and focus for many who believe that more citizen participation is important and beneficial to the common good. Low voter turnouts and civic engagement tend to worry those who believe that all Americans should be involved.

But simply casting a vote does not an unapathetic person make. Indeed, far worse than apathy in one’s civic duty is intellectual apathy, whereby those giving their support to a candidate or policy do not fully understand the implications and consequences of implementing the policy or electing the politician. Individuals who stay home and don’t participate in civic affairs are not affirmatively voting for bad things, whereas those who get involved, but who indirectly uphold the violation of individual liberty, cause more harm than good.

“Get out the vote” efforts should therefore be subordinated to educational efforts that persuade all persons to understand and adhere to the fundamental principles of individual liberty, private property, and free enterprise. As Thomas Jefferson said, “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people… They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”

Many institutions exist which have as their mission the promulgation of these principles, but most of them focus on national issues. The Ludwig von Mises Institute, Foundation for Economic Education, CATO, Reason, Future of Freedom Foundation, the Institute for Humane Studies, and others all do great work and are worthy of our support.

But what of focusing within one’s own state? Many state-based think tanks exist around the country which focus on their own governments and seek to clean house at a more local level. Unfortunately for Utah, there has been no organization to advocate for liberty and promote moral public policy at a state and municipal level.

Until now.

I’m extremely excited to announce the formation of Libertas Institute, a public policy organization dedicated to advancing the cause of liberty in Utah. No longer will the liberty movement in our state be relegated to infrequent activism projects and loosely-organized educational initiatives. It’s time to step it up a notch.

To show we’re serious, we’re kicking things off with an essay contest where you can win a $1,500 grand prize, or the “people’s choice” prize of $500. That’s right: share with us your thoughts on liberty in Utah, and you could come away with a hefty cash prize.

Many people have asked me in the past few years if I would consider running for public office. I’ve usually shrugged off such suggestions, replying in the past few months that “I’ve got something better in mind.” Libertas Institute is it. The time has never been better to accelerate the promotion and adoption of liberty. Utah needs this message.

We will only be successful with a broad base of support. Spend some time on the website, and if you like what you see, please consider a donation, or better yet, a membership.

5 Responses to “Upping the Ante: Making Liberty Go Mainstream in Utah”

  1. Mike S
    July 2, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

    It will be fantastic and challenging to teach Utahns that there’s more to being a conservative than just selecting “R” at the top of the ballot.

  2. Clumpy
    July 2, 2012 at 3:29 pm #

    @Mike S

    I’d recommend that printed materials be translated into a dialect I’ll term “Middle-Aged Armchair Conservative Utahn” (MAACU). You know the demographic – gets all of their news from “Family Values” Talk Radio, has Limbaugh or Hannity on all day throughout the house (and listens to KSL, but doesn’t like Doug Wright because he’s “too liberal”), stopped reading the newspaper and watching television because “the media is just so liberal these days,” and who knows who all of the good guys and bad guys in Washington are, but not a single non-euphemistic name for a bill of legislation. The MAACU isn’t a conservative in any sense of the word, but has a small set of selectively-applied political principles to drag out every time a conveniently packaged lightweight controversy pops out of the media pipeline. In short, they’re painfully aware of the birth control controversy and wary of Obama’s origins, though they’re not particularly concerned about habeas corpus, drone attacks overseas, corruption in UDOT and the consequences of the drug war.

    But communicating with this good-natured, but misguided and casually ideological demographic will not be easy! Libertarianism as a philosophy has been marginalized and swept under the rug both because the “powers that be” (and I mean this in a very realistic and not conspiratorial sense) don’t benefit much from its prevalence, because libertarian principles take more time to communicate than ten-second soundbites afford, and because it’s so easy to cynically condemn libertarians as weak peaceniks, lovers of drugs and legalized prostitution, and traitors.

    I’d like to suggest the following template, which incorporates some of the MAACU rambling and anecdotal way of speaking and dealing with facts into a template which encourages more principle-minded thinking:

    “Reading the BOM it’s amazing that their society didn’t fall faster than it did-

    Because ours is sure on the downward slope…

    Like the Nephites we have become a warlike people and treat each other like animals…

    Having raised three children, I’ve had my share of protests that I am not treating my children fairly-


    But sending kids to bed without dessert is quite a bit different from killing people without habeas corpus…

    If as the scripted say we are all “Children of God” then we might want to consider turning the other cheek with the Muslim world and being a good neighbor…

    But I suppose I’m just being old-fashioned…

    I’m definitely being a little cynical and humorous here, but I do truly believe that most modern political analysis actually centered around principle is a little too insulatory and intellectual to really be appreciated by those who don’t already subscribe to that political stripe. Glenn Greenwald, for example, one of the biggest crusaders for human rights and what Utahns ought to consider a “Christlike” foreign policy, may as well be speaking Martian for all of the impact his words have on the unconverted. The solution may involve more accessible, punchy writing that hits people in the same place as the political writing they’re already listening to.

    If we can find a way to translate habeas corpus, pacifism, human rights and ending political corruption into the same space currently occupied by jingoism, ignorance, paranoia, and partisan demagoguery, then we may really be getting somewhere.

  3. Nick
    July 3, 2012 at 8:03 am #

    I wish you the best of luck with Libertas Institute.

    Heaven knows you are right about the need for local freedom organizations.

    I only hope that some of us are able to follow your lead here in Idaho.

  4. Charles D
    July 3, 2012 at 11:27 am #

    You should be able to get lots of corporate funding for this effort since your goals are right in line with those of the corporate special interests that dominate our political system. They too want citizens to put property rights above human rights, to put individual self-interest above the needs of the community, state and nation, and above all to subordinate democracy to the religion of “free market” capitalism.

  5. outside the corridor
    July 4, 2012 at 8:21 am #

    looks good; good posts–

    I’m not in the Utah ‘world’, far from it, but the MAACU sound like many in our ward far from the Mormon Corridor–

    Connor, you aim high; it’s impressive.

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